We will live and then we will die. That is the worldview of the life cycle. On our traditional grave marker will be the date we were born into this world, a dash, and then the date we depart. How will we live between these two important dates? Who are we and how are we living in the “dash”.
A poem has been written about living well in the dash between life and death. It was written by a mourning wife who’s husband had just died. Her tender words plead for people to think about being more kind, generous, respectful and loving in the “dash” between life and death. It is meaningful and thought provoking. I think of it as I read Genesis 25 that gives us a quick summary of the “dash” life of Abraham, Friend of God.
Observe these key character traits in Abraham’s “dash” living:
–Love God first
–Be kind and generous to family and friends
–Put others (Lot and family) ahead of your own gain
–Be wise in your dealings with neighbors and enemies
“He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family.” Did he die “happy” because of these traits?
Is that how we will leave this earth…happy, blessed and fulfilled?
Who am I in the “dash”? What am I doing? Will I leave earth as Abraham did…happy and blessed?
1-2 Abraham married a second time; his new wife was named Keturah. She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 Jokshan had Sheba and Dedan.
Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
4 Midian had Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah—all from the line of Keturah.
5-6 But Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons he had by his concubines, but then sent them away to the country of the east, putting a good distance between them and his son Isaac.
7-11 Abraham lived 175 years. Then he took his final breath. He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, next to Mamre. It was the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. Abraham was buried next to his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi.
The Family Tree of Ishmael
12 This is the family tree of Ishmael son of Abraham, the son that Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham.
13-16 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons in the order of their births: Nebaioth, Ishmael’s firstborn, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah—all the sons of Ishmael. Their settlements and encampments were named after them. Twelve princes with their twelve tribes.
17-18 Ishmael lived 137 years. When he breathed his last and died he was buried with his family. His children settled down all the way from Havilah near Egypt eastward to Shur in the direction of Assyria. The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin.
19-20 This is the family tree of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham had Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan Aram. She was the sister of Laban the Aramean.
21-23 Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant. But the children tumbled and kicked inside her so much that she said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” She went to God to find out what was going on. God told her,
Two nations are in your womb,
two peoples butting heads while still in your body.
One people will overpower the other,
and the older will serve the younger.
24-26 When her time to give birth came, sure enough, there were twins in her womb. The first came out reddish, as if snugly wrapped in a hairy blanket; they named him Esau (Hairy). His brother followed, his fist clutched tight to Esau’s heel; they named him Jacob (Heel). Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
27-28 The boys grew up. Esau became an expert hunter, an outdoorsman. Jacob was a quiet man preferring life indoors among the tents. Isaac loved Esau because he loved his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29-30 One day Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stew—I’m starved!” That’s how he came to be called Edom (Red).
31 Jacob said, “Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.”
32 Esau said, “I’m starving! What good is a birthright if I’m dead?”
33-34 Jacob said, “First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM ABRAHAM’S “DASH”…
Abraham’s “obituary” is found in verses 7-8. He died “in a good old age” as the Lord had promised him (Gen. 15:15). He had walked with the Lord for a century (12:4) and had been “the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
Old age is “good” if you have the blessing of the Lord on your life (Prov. 16:31). In spite of physical deterioration and weakness, we can enjoy His presence and do His will until the very end (2 Cor. 4:16–5:8).
Like Sarah before him, Abraham “died in faith.” For one hundred years, he had been a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth, seeking a heavenly country, and now his desires were fulfilled (Heb. 11:13-16). His life had not been an easy one, but he had walked by faith a day at a time, and the Lord had brought him through. Whenever Abraham failed the Lord, he returned to Him and started over again, and the Lord gave him a new beginning.
He also died “full of years” (Gen. 25:8). This suggests more than a quantity of time; it suggests a quality of life.
James Strahan translates it “satisfied with life” (Hebrew Ideals, 197). Abraham, who was flourishing and fruitful to the very end, fulfilled the picture of old age given in Psalm 92:12-15.
How few people really experience joy and satisfaction when they reach old age! When they look back, it is with regret; when they look ahead, it is with fear; and when they look around, it is with complaint.
An anonymous wit claimed that he would rather be “over the hill” than under it. But death is not a threat to the person who trusts Jesus Christ and lives by His Word. Old age can be a time of rich experience in the Lord and wonderful opportunities to share Him with the next generation (Ps. 48:13-14; 78:5-7). Then, when death comes, you go to meet the Lord with joyful confidence.
God promised that Abraham would die “in peace” (Gen. 15:15), and he did. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote that “old age should burn and rave at close of day,” but that is not the Christian approach to old age or death. Abraham was saved by faith (v. 6), so he had “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). He had walked in the way of righteousness, so he experienced the peace of God (Isa. 32:17). The God who had guided him for a century would not forsake him at the very end (46:4).
Like everything else in life, to be successful in old age, you must start working at it very young. That is the counsel Solomon gives in Ecclesiastes 12. The chapter describes some of the inevitable physical problems of old age, but it also emphasizes that a godly life beginning in one’s youth is an investment that pays rich dividends when life draws to a close.
One day, you will be “gathered to your people.” If God’s people were your people in life, then you will be with them after death in the home that Jesus is now preparing (John 14:1-6). If the Christian family is not your “people,” then you will be with the crowd that is going to hell, and it is described in Revelation 21:8, 27. You had better make the right choice, because eternity is forever.
Where is my “dash” living leading me?
Abraham left his material wealth to his family and his spiritual wealth to the whole world, all who would believe on Jesus Christ. Isaac was God’s choice to carry on the covenant line. Keturah’s sons received gifts, but Isaac received the inheritance and the blessings of the covenant.
All who have trusted Jesus Christ “as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). This means that we have a share in Abraham’s will! What did he leave us?
To begin with, Abraham left us a clear witness of salvation through faith. Paul cited his example in Romans 4:1-5, relating it to Abraham’s experience in Genesis 15. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the law because the law had not yet been given. He could not have been saved by the ritual of circumcision because God declared him to be righteous long before Abraham was circumcised. Like everybody else who has ever been saved, Abraham was saved by faith and by faith alone (Heb. 11; Gal. 3).
Abraham also leaves us the example of a faithful life. James used Abraham to illustrate the importance of proving our faith by our works (James 2:14-26). Wherever Abraham went, he pitched his tent and built his altar, and he let the people of the land know that he was a worshiper of the true and living God. When he offered Isaac on the altar, Abraham proved his faith in God and his love for God. He was not saved by works, but he proved his faith by his works.
From Abraham, we learn how to walk by faith. True, he had his occasional lapses of faith, but the general manner of his life evidenced faith in God’s Word. “By faith Abraham … obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). “The pith, the essence of faith,” said Charles Spurgeon, “lies in this: a casting oneself on the promises.”
True faith is our obedient response to the Word of God. God speaks, we hear Him and believe, and we do what He tells us to do. Abraham and Sarah held on to God’s promises and God rewarded their faith.
Finally, because of Abraham, we have a Savior. In the first verse of the New Testament (Matt. 1:1), Abraham’s name is joined with the names of David and Jesus Christ! God promised Abraham that through him all the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3), and He has kept that promise.
There can be only one Abraham and Sarah in God’s great plan of redemption, but you and I have our tasks to perform in the will of God (Eph. 2:10).
Today, at this very minute, we are writing our obituary and preparing our “last will and testament” as far as our spiritual heritage is concerned. Today we are getting ready for the last stage of life’s journey.
Are we making good preparations?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
Your Friend, Abraham was not perfect, but He was still your forgiven Friend. You guided him meticulously through life. You promised a Savior through his genetic line and you delivered. Oh, how grateful we are that you did! This story of a man called Abraham is really all about you and your love, promises, provisions, power and protection that is offered to all of us. Thank you, Lord for this reminder of who YOU are. continue to transform me. Help me to live my “dash” well.